Heartburn and indigestion

It is fairly common after eating a big meal, or eating food that doesn’t quite agree with you, to notice the initial signs of indigestion. However is it actually indigestion that you are feeling, or could it be heartburn? Both these conditions are caused by the actual way that you eat and indeed the way that your body breaks down and digests food. Although, it must be said, there are two totally separate problems. It is of vital importance for you to understand why they are different, so they can be prevented and treated.

Heartburn, in actual fact, cannot be considered a disease or condition, it is merely a symptom. There are numerous causes of heartburn and these include:

  • Eating certain foods such as fatty foods, foods high in acid content, chocolate and peppermint
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease, otherwise known as GERD
  • Side-effects from certain medication that you are taking

There are numerous symptoms that are common to heartburn such as a burning feeling in the chest, a sour taste in the mouth and a pain in either the neck or throat.

Dyspepsia is the medical name for indigestion. There are various symptoms and often these are actually a sign that you may be suffering from another health condition. Indigestion is most likely to be caused by:-

  • Eating too quickly
  • Eating foods that are high in fat, greasy or very spicy
  • Eating far larger portions than you need to
  • Drinking excessive caffeine or alcohol

Indigestion can also be caused by certain conditions such as gastritis, gallstones, pancreatitis and ulcers. It has also been known to be brought on by feelings of stress or anxiety, the side-effects of medication or smoking tobacco products. The general symptoms of indigestion will include stomach pain or a general discomfort in the belly area, feeling full during or after a meal, nausea, bloating and you may even experience heartburn.

You can actually experience heartburn and indigestion at the same time. They will feel extremely similar, but are not interchangeable. However, both have symptoms that most often occur after you eat, or from eating too much or too quickly. Either heartburn or indigestion can be caused from the way you eat as well. Heartburn in actual fact is a symptom of indigestion. However indigestion is best described as a collection of symptoms, although heartburn also has its very own distinct symptom. Indigestion is in no way related to stomach acid, but is more connected to your actual state of mind and emotional health. If you feel stressed, anxious, or nervous this can often lead to or trigger indigestion. You should note that whenever you feel relaxed it is far easier to prevent indigestion.

It is important that you watch what you eat and avoid certain triggers such as eating fatty or spicy foods, or drinking too much alcohol. Limiting your portion sizes and eating far slower can also limit the effects of heartburn and indigestion. Relaxing and being able to relieve stress, as mentioned, can help to prevent indigestion. This can actually also reduce the amount of air that you swallow while eating. It is therefore equally important to try and avoid talking while you eat and also make sure that your mouth is closed while you are chewing.

There are numerous antacids and other drugs that can help to reduce the amount of acid in your stomach. It is these stomach acids that are known to trigger heartburn. As long as you do not display any alarming features such as anaemia, weight loss and are not elderly, using antacids is a perfectly sensible way to treat heartburn. However antacids, although sometimes successful, may not always cure you of indigestion. For those who suffer from indigestion, antacids can often produce some quite alarming side-effects such as constipation, diarrhoea, headaches and nausea.

Probably the best way to remedy heartburn or indigestion is a change in lifestyle or diet. It is always advisable to see your doctor so they can actually rule out the possibility of another underlying digestive health problem. Your doctor may well advise you of a few lifestyle changes that you should make. These may include eating smaller, but more frequent meals. So rather than only eating two or three times a day and feeling full and bloated each time, you should eating small meals regularly throughout the day. It is also recommended that you do not lie down for at least two hours after you eat and you should also look to elevate your head by a few inches while you sleep. As mentioned, you should try and avoid alcohol and tobacco, while ensuring that you limit your intake of acid stimulating foods and beverages. You can also look to stop wearing belts or clothes that are tight fitting around the waist.

Last updated on Aug 3rd, 2010 and filed under Digestive Health. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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